Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Early morning Kayaks and Redfish....

  I headed out the door dark and early monday to see if I could find some happy fish getting shallow.  The wind was up, and the forcast was shit, but what the hell.  I was already up, so what else was I gonna do right??  After a quick stop for coffee I pulled up to the put in and got my gear ready to roll.  

   The wind was already worse than it was supposed to be.  And it was only gonna get worse.  As I paddled out I couldn't help but notice the beauty around me, and any regrets I had about getting up early and putting myself in a position to get blown around for no reason quickly melted away... 

   The wind can whip the mud up off the bottom making it impossible to see fish cruising through water with the clarity of chocolate milk.. Luckily when the fish are happy they don't hide too well..

   The wind was making it hard for me to position the boat and make a cast that was capable of being seen.  Finally after alot of sweat grunting a cussing, I managed to work into an area and connect with some fish.... two to be exact, but nice big fatties..  I only got a picture of one... 

  After I released the second fish, the water rose, as did the wind, and I had to make my moves towards the truck....

  So tonight I sat down at the vice and whipped up a few more mud minnows and a little after daybreak I'll hopefully find myself once again sitting on the flat watching reds crawl through the mud.....

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back up and Runnin'.....

  Well for the few of yall out there that follow this sporadic burst of uselessness I refer to as a blog, you may have noticed that this place has been quiet for a few months.  That can be chocked up to alot of things, namely my lack of free time as of late.  But as the seasons change so does everything else, and I will soon resume my animalistic drive to be on the water...   

  I did manage to get out with Gifford the other morning to put my first "tailing" fish on the board for '11..  and we succeeded....   The morning was calm unlike most spring mornings, and we had plenty of water in the spartina to give us a shot at seeing a tail.  The fish had other plans however and though we checked a dozen or so spots we didn't find those happy fish rooting around just yet.  We did find a few fish just chilling out in the grass, and I managed to convince one to eat... 

  To make things better he at a yet to be proven pattern.. So in just an hour or so of a morning fish I managed to put a fish on the board, and add a pattern to the harem...... Not a bad day... 

  It is my goal to update this regularly and put my foot in the ass of my compadre's to make sure they do the same....  The weather is warming, and the fish are returning to the grass.... All is well in the world once more..... 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Shop Rat

By: Mad Mike Benson

    My first introduction to a real fly-shop was at the late age of sixteen. Though I had been fly fishing most of my life, it had always been in a non formal setting, learning from my father, and grandfather who rarely set foot in fly-shops themselves. I knew no lingo, or technical terms for knots, rigging or gear. All I knew is what I had been taught or what had been learned from brutally beating my head against the river. It was at this time when I first walked through the door of Wilson Creek Outfitters, a small shop in the town just up the road from my home. It had been there for a few years, yet I had never seen it. Due to some trouble that I had gotten myself into, I had recently been obsessed with fly-fishing, it was really the only thing that my parents would trust me to do, and I had been having a hard time catching fish. Like I said, I had been fly fishing my entire life, but most of that had been in ponds and lakes, with the occasional trout stream thrown in. My father had fished a lot more before I was born and I was always engrossed in his stories of the mountains, and streams he used to hike into, and the fish he used to catch so far away from the prying eyes of society. I longed for that solitude at first, I just wanted to get away from everyone, and find something; mostly I was just looking for myself. Then after a few fruitless trips, I lost interest in finding myself and wanted to catch a damn trout! I spoke with my grandfather, but it had been a while since he had fished these waters and his advice wasn’t to my liking, but he did mention that he had seen a fly shop in downtown Morganton on his last trip there, and that I could probably find some good help there. Seeing that I needed a new leader anyway I made plans to swing by there on my way up the mountain the next day. Walking through the door, I instantly fell in love. Before me I saw more fly rods than I had ever seen in one place. The store itself was not much, just a shotgun style boutique set in the main square of downtown Morganton. That was when I first met Walt, a gruff old man who looked to be in his late forties, he gave me an expression that said "who the hell are you and what do you want". He never said this of course, in fact I don’t think he said anything at all the first time I saw him, he just glanced up from his computer on the desk in the front of the shop, and walked away into a back room. I continued to walk around, trying not to trip over my tongue as I drooled over things that I never knew even existed. The reels in the glass case near the checkout counter were beautiful. I at this point had never seen a real, machined aluminum reel, and I suddenly felt ashamed of the old martin that was precariously perched on my shoddy fly rod. I had come in looking for a leader, but at my current knowledge level I didn’t even know how to ask for it. A younger guy walked up to me after a few minutes, he looked to be in his early thirties sporting a goatee and a big smile. This was Lee, "what can I get for you today man?" he asked me. I just stared at him a minute and finally when I thought I knew what I wanted I came out with "I need some fly-line". "Ok then" lee said as he turned to the wall behind him where there were a bunch of boxes arranged and hanging on pegs. "What weight do you need?"….. This threw me off, what did he mean by weight? "Ten pound test should do it" I said trying to keep my composure. This drew a blank stare from Lee as he tried to decipher what had just happened. Well after a lengthy conversation, and a lot of education on the difference in fly lines, leaders, and tippets, I walked away with a tapered leader. This went on for a few weeks, me coming in, asking questions, being ignored by Walt, and Lee holding my hand and walking me through the paces. Even with all of Lee’s help in fly selection and places to fish, I was still not catching anything, but somehow that didn’t stop me, I just kept on fishing, and kept on hanging out at the shop every spare second I had, just to bleed Lee of any info he could give me. Then it happened, I remember it like it was yesterday, I walked in just like any other day, and there was Walt behind his computer, working on something, and Lee tinkering on a reel in the background. I said hello to Walt as I always did, and kept walking, not really expecting to be noticed when I heard "Hi there, its Michael isn’t it". I stopped, and slowly turned just to make sure I was the one being addressed. "Yes, Michael Benson," I stammered, still not sure of what was going on. "Well you been catchin’ any trout?" The next thing I knew we were having a genuine conversation as though we had been talking all along. He gave me some different suggestions on where to go, and what flies to try, and then he did something that would change my life forever. "Hold on here just a second, I wanna give you something to try" he said as he hurried over to a vice that was set up in the rear of the store. He came back with an odd looking neon yellow fly. It looked like any other parachute pattern, but the body was constructed of foam, then again, I knew so little about flies I just figured that this was what it was supposed to look like. "I’ve been working on this yellow sally pattern for a while now, and I haven’t been able to fish much lately, try it and let me know if it does anything for you." I took that fly, and left, and little did I know it then, but my life was about to make a turn that would alter my future forever.
    I had been on my way to a little wild stream outside of town when I stopped by the shop, so once I got back to my car I placed the fly in my box along with the others and proceeded up the mountain to the stream still a little stunned at what had just happened. Walt is a good man, but he is one of those people whom you either love or love to hate, and a lot of people had been pouring stories of his rough nature into my ear, so the fact that I had just had a pleasant conversation with him, and he had given me a fly for free was something that I never would have expected. Upon arriving at the stream, I went through my usual routine of getting ready, but when I pulled out my fly-box to select the fly I would attempt with first, I couldn’t get around looking at that gaudy yellow fly in the corner, so I just tied it on, it’s not like I could have done any worse that the previous trips with all the "right" flies. The first couple of runs and pools were fruitless, and I was beginning think that today was just going to fall in line with all the other trips I had taken recently and I would just have a new set of questions for Walt and Lee, when around the next bend I came up to a likely looking pool. The pool was wide and deep for this particular stream, and had some good flow coming off of the right side that dropped down and cut under some mountain laurels that hung out over the stream, only to return on the other side and dissipate into the deep center of the pool. Even as green as I was I knew a good spot when I saw one. The cast was a long one for me at the time, probably only 40 feet or so, but intimidating non the less, so I let my fly go with the best cast that I could muster and it ungracefully plopped into the current just above the pool and began drifting quickly towards the laurels. My first thought was to pull out before the fly became tangled in the bushes, but for some reason I just let it keep going. The fly slowly drifted under the laurels and out of sight but quickly reappeared on the other side no worse for wear. Just as it reached the end of its drift I saw something, or at least I thought I did. "Was that a shadow under my fly?" I said out loud. I couldn’t be sure but I could have sworn that something had come up to take a look, so I placed the cast in the same spot at the head of the pool a second time just to be sure. The fly followed the same path only this time is got a little closer to the far bank when it emerged from the laurels, and the shadow I had seen before reappeared. This all seemed to happen in slow motion, and I can remember every detail to this day as though I am still standing in that cold water watching my fly. The fish rose slowly giving me a look at his entire body. I could make out the spots and outline of a good brown. He came up as though to inspect the foam creation on my leader, but never stopped or hesitated in sucking it down below the surface leaving only a dimple to mark his presence. I was so shocked that this had just happened that I almost forgot to set the hook, but my senses came back to me and I raised my rod tip to connect with that fish. I was never the same. The fish was no trophy, probably around 14 inches, a nice wild fish. But to me, a stupid kid who had been fishing his brains out with no reward, this was the greatest accomplishment of my life. I stood there basking in the moment, taking in what had just happened, and thinking of all the trips, leaders, flies, and pain it had taken to get me to that point, and I could only think of one thing…. "I can’t wait to tell Walt and Lee about this!"
    I went into town the next day and told the guys about what had happened, every detail. I’m sure they really weren’t that interested in hearing about a fish that would be all too routine to them, but they sure acted as though they were. They asked me questions for a change, and I felt as though I belonged there, as though I was a part of some club, or community of people far larger than myself. It was a good feeling that stuck with me for a long time. A few years later after high school I had been doing some volunteer work with my local chapter of TU while in college, and was tying flies in a booth at a local festival under a tent that just happened to be located in front of Walt’s shop. I was there for 3 days strait just hanging out tying and shooting the shit with the guys from TU and the shop. At the end of the last day Walt came up to me and asked me if I was interested in some part time work, and even though I already had a job, I said yes… looking back I’m not so sure it was good decision. Life went on I continued my college education, and eventually quit my other job and gave all of my employed time over to the shop. Even when I moved to continue my education in Charleston, I found a shop in town, and was instantly hired based on my credentials, and a few good words from Walt. A few years later sitting in my car on the verge of a mental breakdown I faced a fork in the road. I was not happy with where I was. School was ok, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted what was at the end of the tunnel, and being a poor kid from the mountains I didn’t have the money to just hang out in college and figure it all out. I had no idea what I wanted, or who I wanted to be. I was just sitting there all alone, hashing out my thoughts; once again I was looking for myself. Then something amazing happened, I thought about that time I caught that brown trout, about Walt and Lee and the shop, about all the things and people that had brought into my life. I thought about my customers at my current shop, about the friends I had made, and about how happy it made me to be able to do for others what Walt had done for me, and the panic disappeared. I realized right there that it didn’t matter where I was going, or what I was going to be when I got there. What mattered to me was how I got there, and how happy I was going to be along the way. The next day I took on a full time position at the shop, and never looked back.
    I’m young, and I’m not going to sit here and try to unlock the secrets of life. I probably won’t work in a shop for the rest of my life, and I may not get to fish like I do forever. But fishing makes me happy, and helping other people catch fish makes me even more happy, and there are very few people in this world that would argue that being happy is the most important thing in life. I still try to keep in touch with Walt, and I run into people from time to time who know him or his shop, and it always takes me back to that place, to the man who helped me find what I was looking for, the man who gave me the chance to find out what I really was….. a shop rat.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


By: Mad Mike Benson
   "Shit that’s hot", I murmur as the coffee burns my upper lip. I set the beat up travel mug on the counter beside a stack of unpaid bills and open my fly-box to check inventory. With all the rabbit and sparkling flash it looks like a tornado ripped through a pet shop and a hobby lobby. After a quick head count I grab my rod and my coffee and head for the door. I’m met by the warm sticky heat of a South Carolina morning. The sun isn’t even up yet but I’m sweating by the time I cover the 20 feet to my truck. But the Air is still and the tide should be low around 8 AM giving me plenty of time to search the flats for Redfish that will also be taking advantage of the relative early morning coolness to crush shrimp and mullet against the oyster banks.
  It may not feel like it at the moment but there is change in the air. The summer is in her last heat filled death throws as she comes to an end. Fall is breathing down our necks with the promise of cooler weather and hungry fish. The summer has been long, and though I’ve spent some time on the water, my fishing time has fallen victim to too much work and boyfriend duties. But all things change. As fall ushers in the new season it brings with it hope that I can find some free time, and waste it poling along the marsh.
   The water is like glass as we pull up to our first flat. Or at least it would be if the millions of mullet and shrimp would stay still. But I guess if I had a creature 100 times my size lying in wait for the chance to eat me, I would be moving too. As the morning progresses we find ourselves spectators to natures beauty, and the vicious game of life and death she hosts. Along the way we manage to catch a few fish. There’s not much talking between Brian and myself, no need really. The tide drops, then rises. The bait and reds seek the safety of the spartina, and our morning adventure comes to a close.
   Our world, like our lives is constantly changing. No one moment on the flats is like another. So we adapt, change our flies, our approach, or pack it up and move all together. It’s this constant game of adaptation I find so compelling about saltwater fishing, and it’s what keeps my attention. All things change, a fact I try to keep in perspective in fishing and my life. Sometimes I am successful, other times I have to shake off a bad decision and keep moving. But the seasons will continue to change, each bringing new challenges, but also bringing hope. Hope that I will be able to adapt, and succeed. The hope that I too can change

Monday, November 8, 2010

Belated Albie report...

  Rarely, at least when traveling with me will you find yourself with the sun on your face and a light breeze at your back.  Normally its a ball busting, feat of human endurance to see just how much your willing to take to catch a fish.  That was the case in the pursuit of Albies last year, but couldn't have been further from the case this year.  When looking at fishing off the outer banks of NC the biggest thing you really have to try and time is the weather.  Without a weather break you will find it hard to even get out of the pass, let alone find and catch fish.  This year, for a change, me and my crew hit it on the head.  Sunny skies, warm temps, and light winds meant that we could literally fish ourselves stupid for four days, and catch more albies than any group of men should be entitled to.  We fished hard, and we drank hard, and when the smoke cleared we had landed hundreds of fish, and I could even remember a few.  The pics are courtesy of Chad Fuller, Jeremy Clark, and Brian Robinson.  I would love to put some poetic words of beauty to these pics, but I think they do a fine job of speaking for themselves.. Enjoy.. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Well Worth It...

Columbus Day weekend I fished hard but the warmer weather had the fish forgetting about the fall like performance they had put on the week before. After making several rookie mistakes and only putting a few in the boat with Jon, I decided it was time to pay some dues. The following day I fished with Fivvy, a man that I respect and appreciate and I guess could credit for starting me into fly fishing. Fivvy has had a tough year and has not been able to get out on the water much so I offered him the bow for a full set of tides. The wind made for a tough day on the pole but at low he still stuck 4 before coming tight on a tailer during the flood. Seeing him catching those fish really encouraged me and helped me to deal with my mistakes earlier in the weekend.

After putting in our time during the week to pay the bills, Jon and I launched with the sunrise on Friday and made a short, cold run to a couple new low tide flats in search of a fix. The cooler weather this weekend was all they needed to get back into the swing of things. I tied on my version of one of Mike’s mad creations and Jon allowed me to redeem myself by being up first.

I was onto a fish within a few casts only to have him shake the hook before I got him on the reel. As soon as he came off though, I looked to the left and saw the same school daisy chaining and tailing in less than a foot of water. I picked up the line and made one cast into the middle of the commotion, stripped once and the drag broke the early morning silence.

Jon dusted off his Albie boots…

…and landed a nice fish that was part of another group working the same flat.

We then decided to explore a new area and found a cove full of mud, oysters, and redfish! The action was pretty intense in the shallows and the camera was the last thing on our minds. We ended up landing 8 (4 each) on Friday in short time.

On Sunday I got the Fivver back out and we idled to a point where Jon and I had found them on Friday. I shut the motor down in 2 feet of water and climbed onto the jungle gym. I was only able to give the Stiffy a push or 2 before calling out, “fish at 11”. Fivvy took 2 casts and snagged a beautiful red in less than 2 minutes after arriving on the flat!

I was even able to convince Fivvy to climb on up and give me a go at one more out of that school before we moved on.

We made our way over to the mud and oyster cove that Jon and I had found Friday and the boys were acting a fool. We sat watching as tails and backs broke the slick surface and shrimp swam for their lives. Man I would hate to be a shrimp… EVERYTHING eats a shrimp! We each picked up a fish from the school before they broke up and the water moved into the grass.

This is a great time of the year to sight fish the low and grab a tailer on the high, though they will have to wait for us this week as we head north to chuck these at some guy named Albert???

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Not a bad hump day...

  Wensday my buddy Gifford and I decided to brave the early morning cold of an oncoming lowcountry Fall and look for some tailing reds..

  I know you yankees and mountain hippies will laugh... but live through a few summers of 110 degrees with 90% humidity, and this will seem cold to you as well 

The sunrise was beautiful.... and the early morning light revealed that the water was already up, and waiting for us.. 

 Gifford being the gentleman that he is offered to pole first... So I got to stand on the bow like a fat tourist and take pictures while I wated for a fish to show... It was a gorgeous  morning and scenery was not hard to come by.

 Luckily we didn't have to wait all that long for the first fish to show himself.  I didn't have the camera ready for him, but as soon as I released him gifford notified me that a second fish was pushing in hard right at us... a few quick casts and I was hooked up again within 15 seconds of releasing the first fish... Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma'am...

   Feeling sated, and a little selfish, I decided I would do the right thing and push Gifford around for a few shots...   He's no rookie on the rod, and it didn't take him long to find and connect with his first target..

   That last shot was the parting look from this fish... he had had enough and we gave him the old, "Long line Release"...   Gifford found another willing fish without too much effort, and we were tight once again..

  After Giffords second fish, I managed to find another to make an odd 5 on the day... but no photo's seemed necissary, so we just let him get back to his buisness and called it a day...

It was a beautiful lowcountry fall morning, with good company, and willing fish.. thats all a man can ask for..